On Nov. 6 as Bennett College freshwoman Karizmah Caldwell voted for the first time in her life, she couldn’t help but think of her maternal grandmother.
That’s because six years ago when she was only 10, Caldwell went with her grandmother, Renee Perry, to the polls to watch her cast her ballot.
“She didn’t say much,” Caldwell recalls. “She just talked about the importance of exercising your right to vote.”
On Nov. 6, Caldwell spoke the same language.
“Your vote matters, so it’s important to vote,” Caldwell said while standing in the parking lot of Reid Memorial CME Church on Bennett Street. “I was nervous when I went inside to vote. I knew what to expect because I’d gone with my grandmother, but I was still nervous.”
Caldwell and about 50 Bennett students braved the rain to march to Reid Memorial. Bennett President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins joined them, as did Kimberly C. Drye-Dancy, director of leadership and civic engagement, and faculty members Dr. Karla McLucas, Dr. Robert W. Williams and Dr. Gwendolyn M. Bookman. Drye-Dancy and Joyce Spruill, a physical education instructor, drove students back to campus in vans.
“I’m proud of myself because I voted,” Caldwell said. “I’m also proud of my Bennett sisters because we walked in the rain to vote. I was running late and didn’t think I was going to make it on time, but I did. I’m glad I came, and I’m glad we marched.”
Before the Bennett contingent left campus, they held a rally in the David Dallas Jones Student Union, named after Bennett’s president from 1926-1955. SGA President Alexis Branch, a senior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, who’s majoring in political science and minoring in global studies, spoke at the rally. So did Dawkins, who reminded her students of the sacrifices made by their ancestors to ensure they had the right to vote.
Dawkins referenced Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who spoke on Bennett’s campus on Oct. 19. On March 7, 1965, national guardsmen beat Lewis and other Civil Rights protestors as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama – in what’s known as Bloody Sunday.
“I think we had a good turnout considering the rain, and I’m proud of our Belles for exercising their Constitutional right to vote and for representing Bennett College in such good fashion,” Dawkins said. “I appreciate Dr. McLucas and Mrs. Drye-Dancy for their efforts to ensure some of our Belles marched to the polls, particularly Mrs. Drye-Dancy as she recently assumed her role as director of leadership and civic engagement. We concentrate on five foci areas here at Bennett, and civic engagement is one of them.”
Bennett students have been marching to the polls for years, and many of the students who marched on Nov. 6 wore pins with various slogans, including Black Votes Matter. As they marched, they chanted a phrase coined years ago by North Carolina Congresswoman Dr. Alma S. Adams, Bennett Belles are Voting Belles!
“As Bennett Belles, we must recognize the role we play and will play in the future of this country and the world,” said Miss Bennett College Brooke Ashley Kane, a senior political science major from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. “We must take seriously our responsibility to stay politically and socially aware of what is happening around us. Our individual vote is silent, but when joined with other votes it speaks loudly and distinctly about what we want and expect.”